Pastors or religious men in authority are supposed to be the haven for vulnerable people to run to for sanctuary, but a Nigerian pastor in the United Kingdom has abused the trust of his parishioners.
Michael Oluronbi of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church in Birmingham formed a splinter group for about 40 adults and children and then claiming that he was instructed by God began a practice of ‘spiritual bathing’.
He then repeatedly raped children after “holy baths” he claimed would ward off evil. He targeted seven victims over 20 years in Birmingham and London telling some they would fail exams or become witches if his advances were refused.
While the self-styled pastor was raping girls as young as eight, his wife Juliana Oluronbi arranged abortions – with one girl estimating she had five or six during secondary school. Four girls became pregnant it emerged.
Oluronbi, 60, who also worked as a pharmacist, “had such a hold over the congregation that anything he said was taken as read”, said police.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said those abused fell under the “influence and authority the defendants held, and honestly believed their actions were on God’s behalf”.
The abuse of one boy and six girls continued into adulthood for some.
A Birmingham Crown Court heard “Spiritual baths” would take place in an upstairs bathroom, a pretext for sexual abuse ranging from indecent assault during “washing” to rapes afterwards. The children were often made to wear red sashes as he carried out the abuse which continued for two decades.
The abuse would have continued had one victim not been bold to report to the police. Oluronbi was arrested in May 2018 at Birmingham Airport while trying to leave the country for Nigeria with some of his ceremonial belongings and a sum of cash.
Police released a filmed confession in which he tells a victim’s relative “everything was my fault” and describes himself as “an animal”.
Oluronbi of Orchard Drive, Longbridge, Birmingham, was convicted of 15 rape charges, seven indecent assaults and two sexual assaults. His wife, aged 58, of Walker Road, Walsall, was found guilty of three charges of aiding and abetting rape.
Three of the four who became pregnant had multiple abortions, which police said often happened after Oluronbi booked them into clinics under false names.
Det Insp Dave Sproson, from the Public Protection Unit, said: “These were sickening crimes committed against children who had put their trust in Oluronbi and looked up to him.
“I hope his conviction offers some closure to the victims and I would like to thank them for their bravery throughout the trial.”